Spike Lee Using Kickstarter to Raise $1.25 Million for Film

Spike Lee Joins Kickstarter: Seeks $1.25
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Filmmaker preps film on "blood addiction"

Spike Lee has turned to Kickstarter to raise $1.25 million in funds in the next 30 days for a new film that’s known for now as “The Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint.” Lee is among most high-profile creatives to tap into his fanbase for crowdfunded financing.

In a video posted on Kickstarter, Lee noted that the “Veronica Mars” film used Kickstarter to raise $5 million earlier this year. Actor-director Zach Braff raised $3.1 million for his film “Wish I Was Here” in May.

Lee gave few details about the project, but described it as being focused on human beings who are addicted to blood. “Funny, sexy, and bloody (and it’s not ‘Blacula’),” he added.

(The director was referring to cult blaxploitation pic “Blacula,” which starred William Marshall as an 18th century African prince who returns from the dead in 1972 Los Angeles.)

The top Kickstarter donation for Lee’s film is $10,000 — which will get the donor dinner and a courtside seat with Lee for a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. Lee is perhaps the best-known fan of the NBA team.

SEE MORE: Spike Lee Opens Up on Why He Turned to Kickstarter (Exclusive)

“This is big, big time,” Lee said of the offer. “P.S. Knicks will be great this coming season.”

As of 6:30 p.m. PDT, one donor had come forward for a Knicks game package and a total of 352 backers had pledged $29,105.

For a $5,000 pledge, a donor will be named an associate producer on the project; a $1,000 pledge will give a donor a part as an extra; and for $750, Lee will give the donor a pair of Nike shoes that he’s worn. Fourteen early backers had pledged $250 each for a pair of tickets to the film’s New York premiere and another seven pledged  $250 for two tickets to the Los Angeles premiere.

The filmmaker appealed to potential supporters by touting the film as counter to the current high-priced tentpoles.

“Do you wish to see Human Beings dealing with each other on a Human Level?” he asked in a quintessentially Lee-esque statement exhorting his supporters to “GET DOWN FOR THE CAUSE.” “How many more explosions with Ear splitting Sound Effects can you take?”

“Nothing in Life is Free and if you want something you got to pay for it,” the statement said.

Lee is in post-production on “Oldboy,” a remake of the critically-acclaimed 2003 South Korean thriller that bows Oct. 25 through FilmDistrict. He had a $30 million budget to work with — considerably higher than the $1.25 million he’s asking for on Kickstarter for which he vows “Every Dollar will go up on the Screen and not into my pocket.”

His most recent directing gigs have been “Red Hook Summer,” “Miracle at St. Anna” and “Inside Man.”

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  1. Who Knows... says:

    One more point: the movie business is all about minimizing personal risk. So why not let the fans take the risk? It’s not implicitly stated, but it’s there.

    Maybe there should be a large scale boycott of Kickstarter until Kickstarter gets the message. I say people need to find other places to get their money because Kickstarter is being co-opted by the “I can really pay for it but I’ll get my fans to do it” crowd.

  2. Who Knows... says:

    It appears that Spike Lee’s project hasn’t come tearing out of the gate like Braff’s or the Veronica Mars projects. He may make it, but I get the feeling that it’s going to take a while. This in itself may be because Spike Lee is just not that popular. or because the subject matter isn’t al that appealing.

    Personally, I think it’s disgusting and embarrassing when celebrities who can afford to bankroll their own projects without missing the proverbial dime do this. This isn’t the same as when a Bill Plympton asks for some money. Plympton is a big deal in a small niche, independent animation, but he’s not a rich man by any means, even though he finances the majority of his projects out of his pocket, only asking for Kickstarter help toward the end.

    No, these guys are different. It’s the digital equivalent of standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign, while wearing a Gucci suit. It’s also an insult to every struggling creative who may be denied funds because a potential backer can’t get the stars out of their eyes.

    And therein may lie a problem. Donating to a rich star’s project so that one can say they have a connection to them. Do people seriously think because they donated to a project they’ll get a better connection. At best, if one of these rich guys runs into you they might give you a cursory heartfelt thanks and a jokey “hope to see you at the premiere” (they may look over their shoulder to make sure you’re not following them when they walk away).

    And while Kickstarter has the power to end this crap, they wont. They get a percentage of every dollar earned. Seriously, what company wouldn’t some of the Zach Braff or Veronica Mars or The Goon project donations.

    There are a lot of other projects that are worthier. So, If you’re a rich star who needs to make a dream project and can afford to do it out of your own pocket (and therefore own it, which is something your kickstarter backers will never get a chance at) then have some self respect and pay for it yourself. You reap the rewards, if any.

    If you are a donator, and you see the rich guy’s project ask yourself: do I want to pay for something that could readily be funded by the rich guy or do I want to help someone who’s project looks interesting enough to take a chance on, but he can’t fund it himself.

    That’s what it should be about.

  3. Moontower says:

    You guys are upset that’s for sure, but not really for the right reasons. Sure Spike shouldn’t have to use crowd sourcing. He should leave it for the little guy. But where he really messed up is not laying out the full status of the project. This article is one of the few that mention that the movie has already been shot and in post-production. If you look at the actual kick starter page it leads you to believe that the movie is yet to be shot, which it clearly has (along with a great trailer) if you go to his website 40arces.com. It even has being an extra as a incentive at the $2,000 level. So that’s my biggest problem with this! It is a very poorly put together campaign relying on his celebrity and leaving out important facts. Tell us that you’ve shot the movie, show us the kick ass trailer and explain that you need 1.25 million for distribution on your terms and then I would probably be happy to light your joint!!!

  4. Bartacamus Wilde says:

    Is this a joke?! Spike Lee has just made a 30 million$ remake of OldBoy – he is rich enough to take 1.2mln$ out of his own pocket and turn it into a movie! If anything he is the one who should be supporting beginner directors with his own money – as KickStarter was and is for people who are developing and growing, he is way pass that level… He is spoiling the whole thing and making it impossible for beginners to ask similar amounts of money for debut films from now on… I’m not even sure if Spike Lee knows how to make a movie for 1.2 mln$ As a big name player he should be playing fairly and amongst directors on his level… Spike Lee: you are behaving like an NBA player who suddenly went into High School Basketball league looking for money… Gettouttahere!!!
    PS saying that you found out about Kickstarter from one of your own NYU students makes it even worse, he/she is paying tons of money to be taught by you – someone who will now use the platform designed for him/her to spoil it……………………………………. speechless, truly!

  5. It offends me when these big names put themselves out there on sites which were designed to be crowd sourcing for those who don’t already have access to the kind of funding spike lee has access to – it is stealing, plain and simple, from those who actually need it. Obscene.

  6. Truth says:

    Many people have the common sense and courage to speak out against this crowd funding movement for and by rich people. There are two ways to stop it: Don’t give money while speaking out against it.


    Spike likes boycotts – now he’ll get one of his own – BOYCOTT!

  7. Naturally, Spike Lee fails to understand how the Veronica Mars film project succeeded with Kickstarter.

  8. jay says:

    So now all these industry types who have made it farther than 80% of us are tapping into resources that should be for the true indies?

  9. Gray Ghost says:

    So do the people who pledged money for his movie still need to buy a ticket to see it?

  10. Inbred Ted says:

    Shouldn’t Spike Lee, James Franco and the likes be the ones donating to Kickstarter campaigns? Instead, they’re stealing from one of the few widespread outlets independent filmmakers have to raise money themselves. Greed begets greed.

  11. Jim says:

    What happened to kickstarter being for aspiring filmmakers with no funds, not rich and already successful filmmakers. ITs ridiculous. Use your own damn money!!

  12. September February January says:

    Instead of criticizing Tyler Perry on every turn, he should learn from him or team up with him. Spike Lee is a self serving hater. i wouldnt dare allow him to double dip out of my pocket (this Kickstarter and movie tickets.) This is not happening in this lifetime.

  13. Filthy rich people don’t need YOUR MONEY to help make them MORE MONEY. This is not a project that helps other people. This is not put forth by someone who has a dream and a worthy idea that they can’t afford. This guy is a leech, and a taker. He should be ASHAMED.
    He is EVERYTHING that is WRONG with Kickstarter.

  14. Snarl Growl says:

    This guy has PLENTY of HIS OWN MONEY to fund his projects… that is part of the “business”. Kickstarter is for those who do NOT have their own money to fund their ideas. SHAME ON HIM, and SHAME ON ANYONE who actually puts money toward this. DO NOT LET SPIKE LEE MAKE MONEY FOR FREE.

  15. Dick Delson says:

    I would not give this guy a dime. He is a racist anti-semite who doesn’t remember how Hollywood embraced him.

  16. Nik says:

    If you don’t want to put towards it don’t but moaning about it is not going to do anything. Lee using Kickstarter is hardly going to effect someone giving there money to help someone make chain-mail dice bags or a new boardgame.

  17. Rob gaeta says:

    This royally annoys me. This is what I was afraid of when the vmars movie kick starter was so successful… That the model would be taken advantage of by larger projects where the director can actually afford it themselves. Veronica mars needed the crowd finding… Zach Braff and spike lee?? Not so much. This makes me sick.

  18. Enrique Singh says:

    This guy is worth 40 million… why doesn’t he finance it himself?

  19. Union Background makes just enough money to fill up a tank of gas. Non Union are lucky to even get Kraft Services.

    So, for a thousand dollars an actor can give Spike Lee money to work on his set as background.

    Might as well give a thousand dollars to be a bag checker at Von’s in Los Angeles.

    So it goes for Lee giving any respect to working background actors.

    • Does Lee even realize that there are more worthy causes on Kickstarter getting rejected for funding cameras, sound and editing equipment that he is using for *his own Kickstarter video•?

      The unmitigated gall. He (along wirh Braff) should be loaning out equipment instead of using this to raise money off the backs of fans.

  20. Joe Smart says:

    It’s hard to believe that Spike Lee couldn’t finance his film through more traditional means. He’s an established name director and it seems like producers are always willing to give him money even though, more often than not, his movies don’t end up being all that good. This reeks of Zack Braff where he is is just doing it for publicity and is going to add the Kickstarter money to the bucks he gets through traditional financing. Does anybody really think Spike Lee actually intends to shoot this movie with a 1.25 million dollar budget?

  21. Julie J says:

    SO OVER celebs using kickstarter instead of their own $$ to finance projects. get a loan like everyone else if you can’t liquidate your seven mansions! my friends made this video about the situation and it’s pretty great – youtube.com/watch?v=Wqgurxo6Umc

  22. Jay Landry says:

    Max Bialystock Lives!

  23. Testy Besttester says:

    Hey! Piggies at the trough – enough! Spike/Braff et al – you have channels that do not require you taking money out of the crowdsource trough and away from up and comers.

    This is yet one more example of something created to help the little guy that gets swallowed by the greed and ego of those established.

    Spike – not cool dude, truly not cool.

    • Rob Simmons says:

      I second the comments made by Testy and Julie J; big $$$ directors and celebrities, hands off crowdsourcing funds! Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc, are for the rest of us “little people” who are trying to get our craft out there and make our dreams reality, not to satisfy your already bloated egos. I’m a novice filmmaker with dreams of making a feature with a budget higher than 3-4 figures. Celebs, tell you what: if you leave Kickstarter funds to those of us who need them most and raise funds for a film through a PayPal “Donate” button on your “official website”, I promise I will do the same when I hit the big time.

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